Two more people who were arrested by police for buying hot iPhones areclaiming that cops tricked them making the purchase, claiming the NYPD used deceitful — and possibly illegal — tactics to get them to buy stolen merchandise.
Cops posed as seedy merchants and cash-strapped street hustlers looking to unload stolen iPhones and iPads during “Operation Take Back” and claim that undercover officers told everyone they approached that the phones or tablets they were hawking were stolen— a prerequisite of an arrest.
But three people cops arrested and one person who witnessed an arrest say that’s a lie.
Bensonhurst resident Malik Shahzed, 27, claims the undercover cop cornered him on Dec. 13 and never told him that the iPhone he was selling was stolen, and harassed him into buying it for $80.
“I told him ‘I don’t want it bro, leave me alone,’ ” he said. “Then he came back and said ‘please trust me. I’m not a cop. I need money for my girlfriend for Christmas.’ He never told me it was stolen. He said that his friend worked for Verizon and gave it to him as a gift.”
Eric Chico — who says he doesn’t speak English — says he didn’t even understand what the cop was saying before he was arrested, and wasn’t told the phone was stolen, Chico’s boss explained.
“The cops asked if he wanted the phone and said they wanted $80 for it. That was it,” said Segundo Batino, the owner of the New Utrecht Avenue barber shop between 68th and 69th streets where Chico works. “[Chico] doesn’t understand English.”
These stories bolster allegations made by residents in Bay Ridge who claim the NYPD broke the rules as they arrested people for buying stolen merchandise.
Some say the tactics used during “Operation Take Back” violated New York penal law, which states that one can only be arrested for buying and possessing hot goods if the suspect knew they were stolen.
Dyker Heights resident Robert Tester, 19, told us an undercover informant coerced him into buying an iPhone — claiming that he needed to sell the smart phone for some quick Christmas cash. Throughout the entire exchange, the informant never said the iPhone was stolen, said Tester, who is now suing the NYPD for arresting him under false pretenses.
An 86th Street newsstand clerk witnessing a similar arrest said an undercover cop gave his suspect the same spiel, tricking him into accepting goods before cuffing him.
Cops arrested more than 40 Brooklynites for possession of stolen items during these NYPD stings. Most of the arrests took place at convenience stores, newsstands, delis, barber shops and other business — including nine in Bensonhurst, six in Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, two in Flatlands, and six in Williamsburg.
The NYPD lauded its operation, and claimed that those arrested were well aware that they were buying pinched merchandise.
“[The suspects] were clearly told the items were stolen as the reason for them being offered for sale so cheaply,” NYPD spokesman Paul Browne told us last week.
Browne did not respond to an email seeking additional comment now that more people netted in the sting are accusing cops of entrapment.
Critics claim that “Operation Take Back” was just a high-profile stunt to pad arrest numbers — and law abiding citizens suffered as a result.
“They’re just trying to get their numbers up, get overtime and show they’re trying to do something,” said Matthew Galluzzo, the lawyer representing Tester in his suit against the city. “But what they’re really doing is making examples out of innocent people.”Reach reporter Dan MacLeod at dmacleod@c